The Monarch Preview

The Monarch Preview


The Cloisters Museum
New York City
7:30 P.M. Local Time

Joe Wagner noisily flipped through his notebook. He wasn’t really looking for anything, he was just trying to distract the museum’s curator from constantly looking at the dead guy over his shoulder.

Despite being a New Yorker for his entire life, Wagner hadn’t been to The Cloisters Museum in Washington Heights until he was forced to chaperone his son’s field trip two years ago. In the end, he quite enjoyed himself, but when he’d first arrived he hadn’t even known what a cloister was. He was surprised to find out it was a combination garden and monastery. He found the stonework as intriguing as the fact that the cloisters were brought over, brick by brick, from France before World War I. Even then he thought the place looked more like a transported castle than a museum.

But tonight, he wasn’t Joe Wagner, the conscripted parent marching tweens around, he was FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Wagner. He was running herd on an entire task force of law enforcement agents, just as he’d been doing for the past six weeks, since the first body had been found. Tonight, blood ran in the egg cup-shaped, cream limestone fountain at the center of one of the outdoor courtyards; a mutilated, half-naked body stretched out across the trickling feature where monks once bent to satisfy their thirsts. Tonight, he was up shit creek and the only paddle in sight was about to come down hard on his career.

“Who found the body?” Wagner asked the museum’s curator, Roger Benoit, a small, pale, effeminate man who smelled of baby powder. Wagner’s team was asking the other museum staff the exact same question just then, but there was protocol to follow here. If the curator felt disrespected, the complaint would go up the chain fast. That was the last thing he needed.

“Uh, Connie. Connie Baker,” Benoit said with a slight European accent. Wagner wasn’t sure which country it was from or if it was even real.

“Was she alone?”

“I believe so, yes. She was on her way to the West Terrace and she noticed the fountain sounded muffled. We all heard her scream and came to investigate. The poor woman nearly passed out. Can you blame her?” Benoit kept dabbing at his forehead with a cloth handkerchief, picking up speed when he mentioned Baker. Wagner didn’t think it had anything to do with the case but there was something there.

“When was this?” Wagner asked, scribbling in his notebook.

“Oh my, let’s see. It must have been about an hour ago. Six-thirty, I guess.”

“And why was she going to the West Terrace alone?”

“You don’t have to put that in there, do you?”

“We’re just trying to clear your people. Make sure no one was involved.”

“Involved? Good Lord, of course she wasn’t involved.”

“So why was she alone?”

“She”—Benoit leaned in so he could lower his voice—“she was going out for a cigarette.”

“I see.”

Wagner asked several more pointless questions and thanked the curator for his time. No one on the staff had anything to do with this, but all the i’s had to be dotted very carefully on this one. He made a few more notes and then joined Special Agent Mike Evans by the body.

“Anything?” Wagner asked, putting his notebook away and cinching his coat against the April evening chill.

“Naw,” Evans said. He was a little shorter than Wagner, but his crew cut stood straight up, evening their heights. “They’re going to need some counseling, but they had nothing to do with it. Half of them are having trouble staying conscious. All they want to do is go home.” It was what Wagner had expected to hear.

“Explain to them they’ll have to come in and give statements before that can happen. You know the drill,” Wagner said, turning to leave.

“Listen, we’ve got a problem.”

“No shit,” Wagner said, the aggravation getting the better of him.

“NYPD is screaming bloody murder.”

“Have they made the connection to the other killings, yet?”

“That’s the other thing. The press were here before we were.”


“When Duke and I pulled up they were already knee-deep at the gate. We had to chase half of them back off the grounds.”

“How—” Evans handed Wagner a fat manila envelope. Wagner pulled the contents out. It was an unmarked file folder and a paperback titled The Monarch’s Reign. Wagner felt his stomach drop when he saw the cover of the book. The black butterfly symbol on the book’s glossy white background exactly matched the bloody butterfly scratched into the victim’s chest a few feet away. He flipped through the folder: police reports, FBI documents, and visceral crime scene photos of the first two murders. In a mere six weeks they were already on their third murder, all of them with the same grotesque postmortem mutilation.


“Yeah. Delivered to just about every media outlet early this morning. We’re following up, but so far nothing; no postmarks and no prints.”

“When the hell was this published?” Wagner asked, flipping through the book’s first few pages.

“Couple years ago. Nothing about the murders, obviously. The author, Emily Burrows, lives in Washington Heights. A Brit with a work visa.”

“Why didn’t we know about this? Scratch that,” Wagner said. “NYPD wants something to do? Tell them to get her in here before some reporter gets it in their brain to go find her. If they haven’t already.”

“Doubt it. Her number’s unlisted. We only found her address because of the work visa. It was a lucky hit.”

“I’m feeling all kinds of lucky today.”

“You haven’t heard the bad news yet.”

“Of course not.”

“The director’s on his way down.”

Wagner visibly winced.

“Perfect. This aside,” he said, waving the envelope, “did you get a look at the corpse’s face?”

“No, why?”

“Take a look,” Wagner said as they walked over to the corpse where it lay posed over the fountain.

“Son of a bitch. That’s Bob Cummings,” Evans said, recognizing the newscaster.

“None other. Somebody went to great lengths to make sure we couldn’t sit on this one.”

“Holy shit, Bob Cummings. NYPD’s going to lose their fucking minds when this gets out,” Evans said. Aside from being the highest-rated newscaster in New York, Cummings was ex-NYPD, as was Evans.

He leaned forward and looked more closely at the roll of material protruding from the corpse’s twisted maw.

“That the cause of death?” Evans asked.

“Probably. ME’s on his way. The mutilation is most likely postmortem, like the others,” Wagner said, nodding at the crude butterfly symbol scratched into the dead flesh.

“Not exactly like the others, is it,” Evans said, pointing to the bruising on Cummings’s face. “He beat the shit out of this one.”

“Yeah,” Wagner said. The other victims had very few marks on them, besides the mutilation. “Not sure what it means, yet.”

“Hmm,” Evans grunted. He leaned in even closer. “What the fuck is that?”

“Damned if I know. Cloth of some kind, looks like. But get a load of this,” Wagner said, pointing at a protrusion under the skin of the exposed abdomen.

“No way.”

“Whatever it is, it’s about three feet long and the only reason we can see any of it is because the killer couldn’t push it in any farther.”

“SAC Wagner?” a young agent said from the stone stairs that led to the courtyard. Wagner looked up at him. “Director Matthews is here. He’s asking for you.”

“Sucks to be you,” Evans said.

“Not as much as it does to be him,” Wagner said, nodding at Cummings’s body. But he wasn’t entirely sure about that.

“Hey, Pete,” Wagner said as he stepped into the museum’s foyer, trying to set the tone of the encounter. From the look on Director Matthews’s face, it wasn’t going to work. Flashing red and blue lights pulsed through the fogged glass blocks around the museum’s entrance. The upper drive outside looked like an extension of the Federal Plaza parking garage, there were so many FBI cars strewn about. Beyond the cars, a gaggle of reporters strained at their NYPD leashes.

“Not the way I wanted to start my day, Joseph,” Matthews said, staring out at the barricades. The men were the same size and build, but somehow Wagner always felt small around him.

“No, sir,” Wagner said.

“You promised me I wouldn’t regret the suppression in this case. Do you recall?”

Wagner remembered, all right. Six weeks ago, the first mutilated body had been found by a group of teens on the edge of Central Park; a local artist with no enemies to speak of. Wagner had assumed the killer had chosen the young man at random, the real point being the location in an effort to garner attention. Why the killer wanted attention hadn’t really mattered at that point. Wagner had been sure that if they denied the killer his publicity he would make a mistake—a frustrated phone call to the cops or a letter to the media. Something. But as it turned out, the killer was methodical and patient. More patient than Matthews, apparently, Wagner thought. It would have been easy to let the NYPD have the case and be done with it. But Wagner’s son had been among the teens who had found the body. It pissed Wagner off, and when he found out the first victim had worked part time for the post office, he used the technicality to take over the case. But worse, he used his old friend to do it.

The second killing had been three weeks ago, an independent art gallery owner again with no discernible enemies. The only connection between the two killings was the art world and the gruesome symbol carved into his flesh. He’d been killed somewhere else and then left strung up in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Madison Avenue, the corpse’s arms outstretched like a crucifixion on an invisible cross, the same rudimentary butterfly carved into his bare chest. Still convinced of his tack, Wagner fought to keep that murder out of the press as well, the location making it even harder. Reluctantly, Matthews had finally agreed to go along and even use his influence with the Archdiocese. No small feat.

And now this.

“We’re checking the security cameras as well as the traffic cameras in the area, but—”

“But you’re not going to find anything. Just like the others,” Matthews said.

“No, sir. Probably not. If this is like the others, he has pull like I’ve never seen before. The fact that he didn’t set off any alarms seems to bear that out.”

“You’re not helping your case, Joseph,” Matthews said. He turned around and faced Wagner. He was at least ten years Wagner’s senior and had been a mentor to him when he’d first joined the Bureau, but their rank and methods had driven a wedge between them long before this case came along. “Give me a sitrep and then I have to go meet with the Archdiocese who want to tear a new hole in me for breaking the promises I made to them after the last murder.”

Wagner winced as he gave the situation report. He knew Matthews was referring to the work he’d had to do to get the Archdiocese to keep the murder quiet. He’d promised they wouldn’t regret the move, just as Wagner had promised Matthews—twice, now.

He told Matthews where the body was, described the scene, and explained who had found it. Matthews didn’t nod or even blink through the recitation. Wagner was pretty sure it was taking all Matthews’s willpower not to knock him on his ass for putting him in this position. He hoped Matthews wouldn’t take any permanent heat for this. The man was made to be the director. If it had been Wagner, he would have taken a swing at hello.

“The vic is Robert Cummings, the local news anchor. He was the cop that beat the corruption charges a few years back.”

“Couldn’t ask for a higher profile victim,” Matthews said.

“No, sir. But that’s not all,” Wagner said before telling him about the little care package the media had received. Matthews’s eye twitched at the news, and Wagner readied himself for that beating.

“Get. That. Woman—”

“She’s on her way. I’ve got the NYPD chauffeuring her here.”

“No, not here. Anything we do here is going to be too high profile. Clean this up and get the show shut down. I want this museum open by tomorrow morning. The Archdiocese is bad enough without a bunch of rich art patrons whining at me through their pit-bull lawyers. Take her straight to the ME’s.”

“Yes, sir. Will do. Anything else?”

“I think you’ve done enough, Joseph,” Matthews said before walking out the door, holding a newspaper up to hide his face from the press as he walked to his car.

“Joe!” Wagner turned and saw Evans rushing over to him. He never rushed or called him Joe unless he was excited. And if Evans was excited it was not good news.


“I think we got an ID on that murder weapon.” “And?”

“You ain’t gonna like it.”


Tallahassee, Florida
9:00 P.M. Local Time

Jonathan Hall fingered the car door’s handle again from the passenger seat inside his date’s car, fighting the urge to throw it open and run away.

They’d pulled up in front of his modest house over twenty minutes ago, but he was still waiting for a pause in the one-sided conversation, which was foolish. Trudy Malloy hadn’t stopped talking since picking him up two hours ago. He had no idea what made him think she was going to run out of gas now.

After the first hour, he’d started playing games in his mind to keep from both going crazy and jabbing a salad fork in his eye to end the night early. It was the first date he’d been on since his wife, Samantha, had passed away almost two years ago, and if this was an example of what Tallahassee’s forty-something single women were like, it would be his last.

Left up to him, Jonathan never would have gone on the date. Trudy was a fine-looking woman, there was no doubt about that, but he simply wasn’t interested in “finding” someone.

His eleven-year-old daughter, Natalie, had different ideas.

For the past six months, she’d appointed herself Jonathan’s personal screening service. There was rarely a day that she didn’t come home with a recommendation of a teacher at her school or a friend’s divorced mother who would be perfect for him. Trudy fell into both categories. She was the art teacher at Natalie’s school and she’d been divorced just last spring.

“And I told Hanna, if you think Paris is the same as New York, you’ve obviously never been to either place. I mean, seriously. I went to Paris on an art scholarship when I was just seventeen—did I mention that?—and I spent two years in New York studying film, so you just think again before you start throwing around nonsense like that. And do you know what she said? Can you guess?”

Jonathan smiled but made no effort to offer a response. He’d fallen for this rhetorical question trick earlier. He soon realized he was just a bit player in this melodrama. If this were a Star Trek episode, he’d be wearing a red shirt. Jonathan looked down and realized he was wearing a red shirt. He smiled wider at the irony, which Trudy took to be delight in her tale spinning. Oh no.

“—pork meatballs! As if pork meatballs would be on any kind of macrobiotic diet—excuse me—lifestyle plan. I mean—”

Pork meatballs? What the hell was she talking about now? Did she even finish the last story before starting this one? Had he blacked out? Jonathan turned and looked at his house again. It was only thirty feet away, its unkempt front garden and sun-faded siding filling him with hope instead of the usual depressing reminder of his lack of funds. Sanctuary. But more importantly, the person responsible for doing this to him was in there. Natalie would pay for this.

I don’t know how it happened, honey. The Guitar Hero controller must have fallen off the shelf all by itself. Hard. Twice. He smiled at the idea, though he knew he would never do such a thing. His daughter’s misery wasn’t the only reason; those things cost a fortune.

When Trudy started in on her scrapbooking hobby and her latest drama at the art supply store, Jonathan knew he had to end this.

He abruptly leaned over and kissed Trudy, surprising even himself with the ploy. It took her a second to wind down, but eventually there was peace. Ever-loving peace. Suddenly, Jonathan realized this was the first woman he’d kissed since Samantha. Reflexively, he shifted toward her and slipped his hand around her back. Then the past two hours came crashing through his libido and he forced himself to pull away.

He half expected Trudy to pick up her story where she’d left off, but that didn’t happen. Her cheeks were flushed and she was panting slightly.

“So, this was fun,” Jonathan said, unable to look her in the eye.

“Uh-huh” was all Trudy said. He pulled on the door’s handle and made his exit while the getting was good. When he turned to wave to her from his porch, he saw that she was still watching him and making no move to drive away. Maybe Natalie was going to pay for this, but so was he.

He slipped inside and closed the door behind him. After a moment of leaning on the door in relief, he peeked around the curtain in the front window. She was still there and hadn’t moved.

“Oh boy.”

Jonathan paid the sitter and sent her out the side door. If Trudy was still out there, he didn’t want to know about it.

“I knew you’d like her,” a voice behind him said.

Jonathan turned to see Natalie on the stairs in her pajamas, a half-melted ice cream bar in her hand. She was at that pivotal age when everything was still simple: Candy was good, school was bad, and boys were yucky.

When her mother had passed away it had been hard on her, but she’d rebounded wonderfully this year. She was pretty much her old self again: funny, mischievous, and bossy. And Jonathan wouldn’t have it any other way.

But this recent need to become his personal love doctor concerned him. Something had changed a few months ago to make her suddenly worried about the idea of her dad being alone. He had still been trying to figure out what had changed when a counselor at Natalie’s school flagged him down earlier this week.

Natalie had been getting into fights. After bloodying the nose of a boy in her class this week, she’d finally opened up to the counselor. She’d apparently been having bad dreams—dreams about Jonathan dying.

“It’s completely normal in kids her age, especially after losing a parent,” the counselor had said.

There were two recurring dreams: In the first, she saw Jonathan dying alone; in the second, she saw him with a mysterious woman, safe and alive.

“Natalie sees what happened to her mother as a normal course of events. Her subconscious is extrapolating from that what it feels is an obvious, inevitable progression to your death. That’s the first dream. The second is a wish fulfillment. To stop what she perceives as normal, she’s injecting another parent into the situation—someone else for death to take instead of you. A decoy, if you will.”

The counselor had gone on, but Jonathan had heard enough. It explained the matchmaking. And as far as he was concerned, the only fact that mattered was that he was responsible for this. If he had done a proper job as a father, he would have helped Natalie deal with her mother’s death better. He’d obviously dropped the ball. And what was worse, he hadn’t even noticed.

He still had no idea how to deal with the problem, so for now he was just trying to be more observant and not to discount any of Natalie’s thoughts and feelings. It was the reason he’d agreed to go on the date from hell.

“Talie, I ought to brain you,” Jonathan said. “Does she talk that much in school?” He hung his coat up and kissed Natalie on the forehead. She was way too chocolaty to risk a hug.

“Of course she does. She’s a teacher!”

“Ha-ha. Very funny, missy,” he said, mussing her hair before he walked into the kitchen, Natalie padding after him in her bare feet. He took a brownie out of the fridge and chomped down on the much needed carbs. “Did you finish your homework?” he asked through his own chocolaty mouthful.

“Mostly,” Natalie said. She finished her ice cream bar, tossed the stick in the trash, and hopped up on the counter beside the sink.

“Mostly, huh? Mostly as in you thought about doing it, or you just need a little help?”

“So, did you kiss her?” Natalie asked conspiratorially with a big grin.

“Natalie, answer the question.”

“The second one. I just need your help with multiplying the stupid fractions.”

“Oh, okay,” he said. He hated fractions but learned a long time ago that Natalie wasn’t the only one going through the sixth grade. He had to relearn whatever she happened to be studying so he could help her do her homework.

“So, did you?” Natalie asked again.

“Did I what?” Jonathan said innocently as he took the milk carton out of the fridge and washed down the brownie.

“Dad! Yuck. Glass.”

“Sorry,” he said, taking a glass down from the cupboard and pouring the milk into it. He saw that there were bits of brownie floating in it. He made a mental note to pick up milk.

“I don’t understand how you guys couldn’t get along,” Natalie said. “I mean, she’s an artist and you’re a photographer. That’s kind of like an artist, right?”

“Not the way I do it,” Jonathan said under his breath. He’d needed a job when he’d left his old life and since he’d typically written “photographer” on the customs forms when he was traveling back then, it seemed as good a choice as any. It didn’t take long for him to learn that pretending to be something and actually being it were two very different colored horses. He was awful at it and now they made what money they could from portrait and passport photos.


“I said it’s time for bed, kiddo.” He tickled Natalie all the way upstairs and after making her brush her teeth, kissed her good night and turned off her light.


“Yes, honey?”

“Don’t worry. We’ll find you someone.”

“Just get to sleep. Let me worry about me. And don’t forget we’re doing your fractions in the morning.”


Down in the kitchen, Jonathan poured himself a scotch and wandered into the living room to enjoy some solitude. He loved his life with Natalie, but there was something about the night, when it was dark and the house was quiet, knowing Natalie was safe in her bed. After a while he turned on some quiet Etta James and looked at some photos he’d taken of Samantha and Natalie a few months before they’d found out she was sick. Samantha had known all along but had kept it to herself.

Jonathan had first met and fallen for Samantha twelve years ago. He’d tried then to leave his life as the art thief known only as The Monarch, pissing off his partner, Lew. It hadn’t worked. They had made too many enemies over the years. One night, while on vacation in Paris with Samantha, his past had come calling. He’d managed to protect her, but his secret was out. He explained everything to Samantha when the ordeal was over. He had to know if she could handle what he was asking her to endure. She said she could, but Jonathan had seen the doubt in her eyes. After one last night together, Jonathan had slipped out of their bed and into the dawn light. He left a note saying how sorry he was and how to contact him if she should ever be in danger—especially if it was because of their time together—but he never saw her again.

That is, until five years ago when she placed the ad on Craigslist that was actually a call for help. He couldn’t believe it when he saw that ad.

The same way he couldn’t believe that thanks to that last night, he had a six-year-old daughter.

“Hang on. I’ve got it here somewhere,” Jonathan said, digging through his pockets. The lights in the all-night grocery were ridiculously bright and right now each bulb seemed to be focused on him.

He was sure he’d grabbed the five-dollar bill off the table before walking up the street to pick up some milk for Natalie’s cereal in the morning, but now all he was finding was pocket lint. He smiled apologetically to the people behind him in line who were feigning either ignorance or patience.

“Here it is!” Jonathan said with a little too much enthusiasm. He knew he shouldn’t have gone out after having a scotch on top of the drinks he had at dinner, but they needed the milk. It was why he’d walked, and while he wasn’t drunk, he certainly didn’t have all his wits about him.

The teenage cashier smiled condescendingly at his triumph as she gave him his change.

“Have a nice day,” she said around her bubble gum.

Jonathan grabbed his milk and rushed out of the store, almost knocking over a carpet cleaning display in his rush. Not just from the embarrassment, but because he wanted to get home to Natalie. The house was locked up tight and she was sound asleep in her bed, but he still hated when he had to leave her alone. The reality of being a single dad continually pushed him farther out of his comfort zone than any day had as a thief.

On the walk home he thought about Natalie’s dreams again. He was so lost in thought, he didn’t notice two men fall into step behind him as he turned the corner off the main drag onto the sparsely illuminated side street that led to his house, still several blocks away. It took his instincts a few minutes to wriggle through the scotch haze in his brain.

Jonathan abruptly stopped and pretended to search for something in his pocket. The men stopped too. He started walking again when his charade was over, and so did his shadows.


Most likely he was about to be the subject of a good, old-fashioned mugging. But what were they waiting for?

He looked up the dimly lit street ahead of him and saw the answer to his question. While sparse, the lighting on the side street was sufficient enough to ward off danger. But up ahead two streetlights were burned out. He knew if he waited until they were out of the light, bad things would happen.

He thought about running. He was still in reasonably good shape and it was only a couple of blocks, but nothing said the guys behind him were meth heads. With his luck lately, they’d be part of the Olympic relay team.

There really was only one choice. Confrontation. And pedestrian though it was, his biggest concern was the milk he carried. He didn’t have any money to replace it if it ended up on the street in whatever was about to happen. He swayed over to the right of the sidewalk and swung the bag into the top of a hedge. When he was sure the cushy branches had caught and held the bag, he turned and walked back toward his stalkers.

He caught them by such surprise they not only stopped but backed up several steps. One of them was small and overweight and looked like the biggest exercise he got was rolling over to fart at night. He was a pace behind his buddy, and Jonathan guessed their pecking order was evident in that stance. The other one would be a problem. He was huge. Six-four, at least, Jonathan figured, having to look up to meet the guy’s gaze from his own height of six-foot-two. He was probably heavier than his buddy, but not in the same way. And he seemed to be pissed. On the plus side, it appeared that if Jonathan knocked him on his ass, his buddy wouldn’t be a problem.

Jonathan caught himself. Maybe we don’t start this with assault. Who knew what they wanted.

“Can I help you boys?” Jonathan asked, his voice neither threatening nor timid. Let them decide how this should go.

The big one seemed to look to his friend for guidance before he answered, and in that moment, Jonathan realized he should have just kept walking. No matter what these guys said or thought when they started after him, they wouldn’t have done anything. Whatever happened now was Jonathan’s fault, and he knew it.

“Stay away from her, man,” the guy said.

“Her? What are you … wait. You mean Trudy?” Jonathan was amazed, not at the connection but at the fact that these guys had apparently followed him and Trudy and he hadn’t even noticed. Am I that rusty?

“Did you fuck her? Fuck her in my fucking car, you stupid fuck!” The guy’s cool lasted about ten seconds. He was almost crying. This was embarrassing.

“Look …” Jonathan mentally scanned through the reams of things Trudy had said to him tonight and found her ex-husband’s name. “Look, Steve. You’ve got the wrong idea. Man, have you got the wrong idea.”

“Just … just leave her alone. Fucker.” This guy was a one-note wonder. “She needs to work shit out and she can’t do that if you’re all smooth and shit in her fucking face.”

“Yeah!” the little butterball chimed in.

“I’ll try and watch the, uh, smoothness,” Jonathan said. He sighed and returned to his milk, figuring turning his back on these guys was about as dangerous as taking a shower without a bathmat.

Then pain suddenly sparked in the side of his head.

“Fucker!” Steve shouted as he and his rotund friend ran off, high-fiving as they did.

Jonathan took his hand away from his head and saw blood on his fingers. He looked down and saw the rock they’d pitched at him.

“What are you? Ten!” Jonathan shouted after them, thinking about going after them for a second, but realizing that leaving Trudy to him was punishment enough.

He grabbed the milk from its hedge resting place and heard a pop.

“No, no, no.” Lifting the bag up, he saw a thin stream of milk pour out the hole he’d just torn in it. “Damn it!”

Jonathan ran, holding the milk out in front of him like a bomb, all the while milk streamed out of the container and all over him. By the time he made it to his kitchen and grabbed a container, he’d saved about a cup’s worth. He carefully put the cup in the fridge and went to get a bandage and some ibuprofen for the pounding lump on the side of his head.

He cleaned up the wound but when he dug under the sink for the bandages all he found was an empty box. Fed up, Jonathan tossed the towel into the sink, stomped into the living room, and opened his laptop. While it booted up, he poured himself another drink to drown out the little voice in his head whining about his promise.

“Come on!” he said a little too loud, wincing both from the headache and the idea he might wake Natalie up. When silence prevailed and the throbbing subsided, he opened a browser window and logged on to a Web site he hadn’t been to in years.

The page resolved and asked for his log-in name and password, no logo or text displayed to show the identity of the site. It made sense, since the site didn’t know his real identity either.

Jonathan logged in with his numeric username and password, memorized long ago. Another minute of account fetching and the details of his bank account in the Caymans displayed. When the account balance popped onto the screen, it eased his frustration somewhat. Nine-figure numbers tended to do that.

“Enough is enough,” he said, keying in a transfer to his local Tallahassee account. He wouldn’t take much. No sense in that. A hundred thousand should suffice.

Jonathan licked his lips as he hovered the mouse pointer over the commit button. This would change everything. No more crappy photography. No more insipid clients. No more cutting coupons or counting change. No more stealing gas money from the swear jar.

He looked up at the faces of Samantha and Natalie staring down at him from the mantel, the diffused lamp light making them seem at once disappointed and angry. On her deathbed, Samantha had made Jonathan promise that he would never allow his old life to come anywhere near their daughter. He’d easily agreed, but then she’d added that she also meant his old life’s bank account. Jonathan didn’t like it, but he understood. She wanted Natalie raised as normal as possible. And while his money wasn’t technically stolen, it was the result of less than lawful activities. A mere moment of looking into her eyes made him promise without reservation. But that was then.

After a long, self-deprecating moment, he slammed the lid of the laptop closed, drained the rest of his drink, and fell back on the sofa, a familiar lump where a spring had slipped digging into his back. He shook off the despair and chuckled.

“Look at it this way. It can’t possibly get any worse.”


FCI Yazoo City
Yazoo, Mississippi
9:00 P.M. Local Time

“Have a seat,” the warden’s secretary said with a smirk. Lewis Katchbrow shuffled over to one of the empty plastic chairs against the wall in his ankle chains and wedged his six-foot, two-hundred-twenty-pound frame into it as best he could. He winced as his hands, handcuffed to the chain around his waist, were squished against the chair’s arms. Lew heard the secretary chuckle, but ignored him.

That’s how Lew had spent most of his two years in Yazoo, Mississippi’s Federal Correctional Institute—below the radar. Minding his own business. Most, until today, that is. He still couldn’t believe what had happened in the past few hours.

The cafeteria door had slammed shut, leaving Lew and about twenty inmates hungry, pissed, and milling around in the afternoon rain. A man used to regulations, Lew had planned on just heading back to his cell to wait for dinner, but somebody else’s plans got in his way.

Lenny Dyson, an older inmate who used a cane to support a bum leg, stepped out of line and started shouting and swinging his cane around. Lenny normally wasn’t violent, which was the reason he could have a cane in the first place, but his shouts grew in intensity until finally he flung himself to the ground and writhed around like he was having a seizure. Everyone, including Rory Dupont, the assistant warden, who was trying to calmly herd the hungry men back to their cells, walked over to see what was happening. Lew stayed put. He’d seen freak-outs before and didn’t need to see another one. He cinched his prison-gray shirt collar up against the rain and waited.

Then he saw the real reason Lenny was freaking out. It was an act. He wasn’t freaking out.

He was a distraction.

Delroy Thibideau, a lanky black inmate renowned for his temper, marched across the yard with a purpose. At first, Lew thought Delroy was coming for him. He squared off and tried to figure out how he’d pissed this guy off. But Delroy wasn’t looking at him, he was looking behind Lew. As Delroy stalked closer, Lew saw him shake something out of his sleeve and into his hand—a shiv. This wasn’t a beating. Someone was about to die.

Behind him, Lew saw a little white dude named Mickey King. He hadn’t met Mickey either, but knew him through the prison grapevine, a better service than even AT&T offered. Mickey had a big mouth. Probably trying to overcompensate for his size, Lew thought. He also knew Mickey was fond of certain words that no doubt would have made Delroy crazy enough to stick him. In any prison those were unwise nicknames to toss around, but in a federal pen in southern Mississippi, it was masochism.

Lew looked over at Lenny, who was still writhing like a lunatic. The assistant warden managed to take his cane away, but couldn’t calm him down. Lew thought about just calling the AW and ending this, but he knew how long a rat would last. Though just being in a crowd where a prisoner got whacked could make life get more than a little complicated. His parole would be blown, at least. And that just wasn’t going to happen.

Delroy eyeballed Lew for a moment, before returning his stare to Mickey, who had no idea what was happening. Lew read the stare as plainly as the evening paper: Get the fuck outta da way, homey. Lew feigned a sidestep, giving the impression he was doing just as Delroy wanted. But when they were abreast of each other, and Lew was sure the AW wasn’t looking, he struck.

Delroy was already in his backswing, his balance all behind him and to the left. Lew stepped behind him, grabbed the shank with one hand, and pushed on the back of Delroy’s opposite shoulder with the other. Delroy’s momentum did the rest. He let go of the shank in an attempt to get his balance and then slammed to the muddy ground. In one smooth move, Lew heaved the shank up onto the roof of the cafeteria building and then turned to walk across the yard toward his cellblock. He heard steps in the mud behind him, knowing there was a pretty slim chance Delroy would let this go. He wasn’t out of this yet. He spun around while Delroy was still twenty feet away.

“Heading back, boss!” Lew shouted to the AW. Delroy froze in his tracks, knowing where the AW’s attention was now drawn.

“What? Fine, go ahead,” the AW said, obviously just wanting the little pimple under his grasp to stop thrashing.

Delroy’s stare burned into Lew’s face. Lew knew he should have just turned and walked away, but he just couldn’t help himself. He smiled and tapped his forehead with two fingers, as if he were tipping an invisible hat. Delroy’s eyes widened even more—which was something, considering their already saucer-sized spin—but he remained where he was.

Lew turned and headed back to his cell.

An hour later, as Lew stepped inside the activity room and heard the door slam behind him, he knew it was time to pay for his interference. Then he heard Delroy’s signature giggle.

“Ah, crap.”

Lew made fists and turned around, readying himself. His fists quickly fell away and he realized he’d walked into something a lot more dangerous than an ambush by some pissed-off cons.

“I think we need to have a chat, ese.”

Delroy was there, but he wasn’t the one talking. He sat on a table by the wall, Lenny beside him, smacking his palm with his cane like a 1920s cop rousting a speakeasy. By the door were two gorillas, bigger than Lew and Delroy put together. All of that was bad. But what was worse—and more confusing—was the leader of the little troop, who stood in front of them facing Lew. Lew looked down into his eyes, which seemed much darker than he remembered.

“Mickey King,” Lew said. “Strange way to thank me for saving your life.” Lew eased back and sat on the edge of a table. He had no idea what was going on here, but he was pretty sure taking a nonthreatening stance was mandatory to his breathing. The only thing he knew for sure was the murder he’d stopped earlier was no murder at all.

“You just keep runnin’ yo’ mouth, boy,” Delroy said. Mickey turned and looked at Delroy, who recoiled like he’d just touched a hot stove.

“My associates are a little upset. They were expecting a big payday for our little charade, today. Now they’re worried they won’t get it. Worried enough to want to take it out of you,” Mickey said. Lew watched Mickey pace as he spoke. Not the pace of a worried or anxious man, but the pace of a lecturer, explaining what was what in the world. Lew also noticed that Mickey seemed to have grown a Mexican accent.

Lew had a few comments bubble up into his brain, but he figured if he wanted to stay healthy he’d better keep quiet a while longer. He looked at Delroy until Delroy looked away. That tiny victory aside, Lew thought he was starting to understand what was going on here. And if he was right, things were very bad indeed.

“The only reason you aren’t losing blood, ese, is because of your intent. You didn’t know who I was, or what was really happening, so you took a genuine risk when you stepped in. I’m touched.”

“Not like there was any real danger, Mr. Colero,” Lew said, taking his shot. If he showed he was smart, he might have a chance. Miguel Colero—known mostly as White Mike, thanks to his complexion and his affinity for coke—had been in charge of a large chunk of the South Florida drug trade until he disappeared last fall. Lew knew this from his penchant of keeping an eye on the law enforcement activity in the Sunshine State—especially Tallahassee. Everyone figured his underlings or his competition had whacked Colero, but with very few photos of him in existence, verification had apparently become impossible.

“And apparently you can also put two and two together. Bravo, ese,” Mickey said. “But until I’m outside of these walls, I’m still just Mickey King. Comprende?”

“Sí,” Lew said. He was far from out of trouble, but he was still standing and that was something, considering who he was standing in front of.

Lew still had a lot of questions, like how White Mike had ended up in a Mississippi federal pen under an assumed name, or why he was working with nobodies to get himself out, but the only question that mattered was:

“What’s the gig?”

“Ah, you see? You see? This is a survivor. A resourceful man adapting to his surroundings. He doesn’t whine when he’s in a bad situation, he finds the angle,” Mickey said, the last of it apparently directed at Delroy.

“Just keepin’ it real,” Lew said. He sensed there was something spoiled between Mickey and Delroy and he didn’t particularly want to watch it go to hell right in front of him.

“The gig is act two. Delroy makes another attempt on Mickey King’s life, only this time he succeeds. Your job will be to make sure no more Good Samaritans stick their noses into our production. Simple, yes?”

“As pie,” Lew said. “So what happens after? Your coffin rolls on down the road until you pull a jack-in-the-box?” Mickey didn’t respond, apparently disturbed that Lew had figured out the plan so easily. Lew made a mental note to dial the smartness down a notch. Being too smart was just as bad as being too dumb with guys like White Mike.

“Time is a factor here, so Mickey King needs to be dead by dinner. A truck rolls out tonight and Mickey’s corpse needs to be on it,” Mickey said. Talking about himself in the third person was starting to annoy Lew.

“Right,” Lew said. “Listen, not to cause trouble or anything. I think it’s great that you think I’m such a stand-up guy and all, but you just told me a whole lotta shit that could be dangerous for you. Aren’t you banking a lot on your intuition?”

“It’s never wrong, ese,” Mickey said. “But it never hurts to have a safety.” Mickey snapped his fingers and Delroy let a plastic baggie unroll in his hand. Hanging down was a shiv in the bag. Lew didn’t need to ask where it had come from. Or whose fingerprints were on it.

“How’d you get it off the roof?” Lew asked. But Mickey was done answering questions.

Lew wondered how he could avoid the same fate in store for Delroy and Lenny. He knew they’d be dead before Mickey popped up out of his coffin tonight.

And now the plan included him.

A few hours later, as inmates lined up for dinner, all the players were on their marks—including Lew. He stood in the rain, which had refused to abate, once again.

Delroy was across the yard, looking like a base runner waiting for the third base coach to wave him in. Lenny was there, but he couldn’t pull another seizure or this act would never work. Delroy was just going to go for it when he got the signal, right in front of everyone. Lew thought the mob panic that would ensue could only help make the whole thing seem more real. His job was to intercept the assistant warden if he came around.

Mickey, standing in line outside the cafeteria, raised his hands while he was talking. It was Delroy’s signal to make his run. Lew looked up and watched Delroy burst out of the blocks. He thought he was going to run full-tilt all the way across the yard, but he seemed to get ahold of himself about halfway and slip into character again.

Lew moved over to the edge of the building and looked around the corner, where the line of hungry men bent. At the end, talking to a couple of inmates, was the assistant warden. The inmates he was talking to had nothing to do with this, so the conversation could break up at any time. And sure enough, Lew saw the AW pat one of the inmates on his shoulder and turn to head toward the main event.

“Damn it,” Lew said under his breath as he headed to intercept the AW. He caught him a few feet before the corner, where the AW would have a view of the charade. Lew had no doubt the act would fool the cons, who wouldn’t really care if it was real or not, but if the AW witnessed it firsthand, the jig would be up. The doctor was well lubricated with cash, so pronouncing Mickey dead wasn’t a problem … unless the AW got to the body before the doc did. Lew saw the doc walking toward the cafeteria; his role must’ve been to just happen to be in the area. He hadn’t even seen the doc earlier, but Lew had been concerned about other things.

“Yes, what is it, Lewis?” the assistant warden said.

“I, uh … that is, I was wondering,” Lew stammered. He knew he should have worked something out before he approached the AW. He could adapt like a banshee with the threat of death over his head, but improv had just never been his thing. He needed the right motivation, and helping someone else escape just wasn’t cutting it.

“Take your time, Lewis,” the AW said. Lew knew the only reason the AW was being patient was that up until now, Lew had been the invisible man, flying beneath the prison administration’s radar. They loved cons who did that. But Lew was about to launch himself smack-dab into their crosshairs.

“I know it’s probably against the rules, sir, but I was wondering if I could get a …” A what? A parole? A V8? An amen? Lew’s mind riffled, wondering how long it took to stab someone anyway. Especially when they wanted to be stabbed.

“A what, Lewis?” the AW asked, losing patience. Lew looked past him to the fence in the distance and the line of elms planted beyond it.

“A … uh … tree. For my cell,” Lew said, not even believing it himself. Really? A fucking tree? Why didn’t you just ask for a Jacuzzi and a blowjob!

“A what?” the AW asked. But the commotion around the corner finally started and Lew didn’t have to answer him.

Men were shouting and howling around the corner. It was the prison song of blood, and all the inmates knew the tune. The men in line tried to drift out and around the corner, but the AW knew the song too.

“Back in line! Now!” the AW shouted, the nice guy all but gone. Lew just wanted the AW to get around the corner so he could get the hell out of there, partly thinking in the back of his mind that this little show meant he was going to miss another meal. He hadn’t thought of that before this.

The AW went around the corner and immediately raised his arm to the tower. Whistles blew and sirens blared. They were going into lockdown. Lew thought better of running out from the crowd on his own with the snipers in the tower alerted. He did what he thought everyone else who wasn’t involved would do. He went around the corner to watch a man “die.”

Mickey was on the ground, the shiv sticking out of the padding under his shirt, the blood bag he had taped to it turning the mud crimson. The doc was already at his side. He quickly told two trusties to get him to the prison hospital. The doc would pronounce him dead before they locked the last cell.

“You men! Back to your cells!” the AW yelled, obviously worried about how he was going to tell the warden that a guy got stuck on his watch. Guards and trusties seemed to ooze out of the ground to shepherd everyone back to their cells.

“Nice and calm, ladies! Excitement gets you dead,” one of the guards shouted to the men, pulling the bolt on his rifle to send his point home. They grumbled and milled around for a bit, but mostly they obeyed, the crowd slowly heading back to their respective cells. Lew joined the crowd, just wanting out of the rain.

“Katchbrow!” someone yelled, and Lew stopped dead in his tracks.


Lew turned and saw the AW walking toward him.

“Yes, sir?”

“We’ve got some talking to do, don’t we, Mr. Tree?”

“Hey! Sleepy!” the warden’s secretary barked at Lew. Lew opened his eyes and looked at him. “You can go in now.”

Lew grinned and nodded before prying his frame out of its plastic chair wrapper. He shuffled over to the door marked “Norman Quinn—Warden” and knocked as best he could. When a voice inside said come in, he opened the door.

“You wanted to see me, Warden?” Lew said.

“Come in, come in,” Quinn said without turning away from the flat-screen television he crouched in front of. “Sit down, Lewis.”

Lew shuffled over and sat down with a jingle, trying to figure out how everyone seemed to be on a first-name basis with him. He watched the warden fiddle with the television’s color settings. It was a nice television. A big fifty-five-inch high-def model. His electronic gadget addiction was no secret, but Lew had had no idea being a warden paid so well.

“Looks like we’ve got a problem, Lewis,” Quinn said. Lew looked out the window behind the warden’s desk and saw that he had a perfect view of the cafeteria where their murder-in-one-act had taken place. I’m screwed. At the same time, Lew looked at the roof of the cafeteria and saw the shiv he’d thrown up there. Man, you can’t trust anyone.

“We do?” Lew said, feigning ignorance.

“Ah, that’s not right,” Quinn said, backing up and sitting in his chair without taking his eyes off the set. “Do their faces look yellow to you?”

“Hard to tell from this angle,” Lew said, straining against his bindings. Quinn seemed to notice his cuffs and chains for the first time.

“Gordon!” Quinn called out into the hallway to his secretary. Gordon showed up in his door a moment later. “Gordon, whose idea was this?”

“I don’t know, sir. Mr. Dupont, I think,” Gordon said.

“No, no, no,” Quinn said, shaking his hand in the air. “We don’t need these. Get the key.”

A few minutes later Lew was unlocked and Gordon was jingling out of the office.

“Close the door behind you, Gordon. And tell Rory I’ll want to see him next,” Quinn said, coming around and sitting on the edge of the desk holding a remote control that looked as big as a loaf of bread.

“You’re not going to hit me with that thing, are you?” Lew said. He was going for lighthearted, but the warden’s tight-lipped smile gave him a creepy feeling.

“Not the way you think.” He hit a button on the remote and the picture changed from a game show to a grainy black and white image. Lew thought he was watching an old black and white movie until he recognized himself at the top of the screen. He watched himself walk around the corner of the cafeteria and out of frame, where he’d gone a few hours ago to stall the assistant warden.

“This is the good part,” Quinn said. “Very realistic.”

Lew watched Mickey King’s “death” take place in front of his eyes. Almost as soon as Mickey hit the dirt, the prison doctor ran over and waved the assistant warden off, obviously saying King was dead. Even with the circumstances, Lew felt slightly sickened by having to watch it go down.

“But this is by far my favorite scene,” Quinn said. He hit some more buttons on his remote and the picture zoomed in on King’s dead body. “And now …” Lew rolled his eyes.

The supposedly dead King sneezed before going still again.

What the hell’s going on here?

At the least, Mickey and Delroy should be in solitary, the doc should be up on charges, and Lew knew he should be back in those chains.

“I have to tell you, Lewis, the worst part of all this—the part that really pisses me off—isn’t the deception. The worst part is all of you thinking I’m so gullible that a see-through charade like this would work. Did you really think the morgue wagon would just drive out of here unchecked? Or that one of my charges could be killed right beneath my window and I wouldn’t get involved? It’s insulting,” he said, tossing the brick remote onto his desk, papers and pens shooting off onto the floor on the other side. “Only a moron would be fooled by that!”

“Uh, yeah,” Lew said, feeling his face flush. Lew wanted to tell the warden the whole story, but he didn’t see the point. It would just sound like prisoner whining. Not to mention make him look like a gullible ass.

Quinn picked up the fallen papers and put them back on his desk. He pulled up his chair and then took a file out of his drawer.

“Lewis Katchbrow,” he said flipping through the pages. “What are you doing in here, Lewis?”

“Another three months until today. Now, well, that’s kind of up to you.”

“You know that’s not what I meant. What were you doing pulling an armed robbery in southern Mississippi in the first place? And alone, no less.

“I see how you handle yourself in the yard. Who you talk to and who you avoid. How you spend most of your time being invisible and keeping to yourself. You’re adaptable and smart. You just want to do your time and get out of here. Why would you help a bunch of losers and an incognito drug lord with a cockamamie plan like this?”

He caught Lew off guard with that one. Quinn knew who Mickey really was. Lew wondered if this knowledge was the reason Mickey felt he had a time limit on getting out of here.

“Let’s just say it wasn’t by choice.”

“I thought as much,” Quinn said, flipping more pages. Then something in the file caught his eye. “Excuse me, Major Katchbrow, Army Ranger.” Quinn read some more to himself, then read some aloud, as if Lew hadn’t heard it before. “Recipient of two Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, and a Medal of Valor. Honorably discharged in 1992.”

“Look, Warden, what does my service record have to do—”

“You declined your flight home from Kuwait. Just wandered off.”

“It says that in my file?” Lew was suddenly curious.

“No, I made some phone calls. And the most interesting thing I heard were reports of you doing some bare-knuckle fighting in Bogotá, Colombia, but then after that … poof, nothing. You dropped off the face of the earth until your robbery bust. Where were you for sixteen years?”

“What is this about, Quinn?” Lew said a little harsher. He didn’t like someone digging around in his past, especially with what they could find. Quinn looked at him, and then seemed to make some sort of decision, flipping the file closed.

“Simple trade,” Quinn said. “You do something for me; I’ll do something for you.”

“What are you going to do for me?” Lew asked.

“You don’t belong here. It’s obvious. It’s also pretty obvious, today notwithstanding, that for your remaining time you’re not going to be any trouble. In fact,” Quinn said, leaning forward, “it will probably be difficult to tell you’re even here.”

Lew got the message.

“Are you saying I can walk out the front door? Today?”

“Well, maybe not the front door, but yes, essentially you’re correct.”

Lew thought about that. He hadn’t let himself think about the idea of being free for even a moment in this place. Thinking like that just made you crazy. But he let himself think about it now and really liked the feeling it gave him. He caught himself before the idea got too heady.

“And the price?” he asked, knowing he wasn’t going to like it, whatever it was. Quinn leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, and swiveled back and forth.

“Mickey King wants to be dead. Let’s give him what he wants.”

“You want me to kill one of your prisoners?” Lew said. There was no way he was going to trade a year of boredom for someone’s life, no matter how much of a scumbag he was.

“Technically, he’s not one of my prisoners. Mickey King is my prisoner. But we both know there is no Mickey King. And let’s not overlook the fact that technically he’s already dead,” Quinn said. Lew thought he was rationalizing like hell, but he figured he also now knew where Quinn’s shiny new television had come from.

“You don’t think I belong here, but you want to make me a murderer. Yeah, that makes sense,” Lew said.

“Let’s stick to the truth, Lewis. This certainly wouldn’t be the first time you’ve killed someone,” Quinn said tapping Lew’s file. “But I’ll guarantee no one deserves killing more than Miguel Colero. Think of all the damage he’s done with his drug trade. The lives he’s destroyed. The families he’s decimated. You could stop all that.”

“Don’t try to sell me with the same shinola they used to sell you. Who the hell do you think wants this done? The tooth fairy? Somebody in here recognized him and squealed to some other drug lord. That’s who wants King—Colero out of the way. I don’t know what you’ve told yourself, but you’re obviously an easy sell. A fucking TV?”

Quinn slammed his hand on his desk and stood up, pointing his finger in Lew’s face while his own turned red. “Watch it, Katchbrow! There’s a flip side to this coin. I testify that I saw you kill Colero. Maybe I plant some drugs in your cell. I hear they serve great meals on death row. For a while.”

“Fuck you. Go ahead, testify. Plant whatever you want. I’d love to have my day in court. Maybe my lawyer goes sniffing around your house or your bank account to see what other new, expensive goodies you’ve gotten lately. Maybe I talk to a few of Colero’s friends and tell them the real story. Hope you didn’t get the extended warranty on that piece of shit.”

Quinn’s face went from red to bleach white. There was an audible click as Quinn’s Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. He opened his palms and patted the air, apparently trying to calm the room’s sudden foul mood. He sat down in his chair and took a deep breath.

“We’re getting way off the beam, here. Let’s just calm down,” Quinn said.

Lew didn’t say anything, but he sat back in his chair. Pushing was only going to get him so far.

“Your freedom was on the table originally, and that’s what’s on the table now. Will you—”

A rapid, frantic knocking on the door cut Quinn off. He scanned the room, looking like a poker player caught with an ace up his sleeve. He grabbed Lew’s file and shoved it in a drawer.

“Yes, what is it?” Quinn called out. “Shit!” He grabbed the remote control and flipped off the paused fake murder, the game show returning.

The door popped open and Rory Dupont, the assistant warden, stuck his head in.

“Boss, the inmates have started a fire in Cell Block H. They’re threatening to riot over the shanking. We gotta call the state cops. Now!”

Lew looked out the window and saw smoke rising out of one of the far building’s windows.

“Damn it!” Quinn headed for the door. “It’s our house, we’ll handle it.”

“What about him?” Rory asked, stopping Quinn and pointing to Lew.

“Leave him here. Give me a set of those cuffs.” Quinn handcuffed Lew to the chair that was bolted to the floor. Lew didn’t know if it was to keep Lew the prisoner from getting away; or Lew the weapon from being hurt in the blossoming riot. He looked outside again and knew he really didn’t care. “Let’s go!”

Quinn ushered Rory out of the office and as he was leaving said: “Think about what I said, Lewis. This could be a turning point in your life. Don’t blow it over details.”

Then he shut the door and Lew listened to the muffled voices beyond the walls fade until he saw the men, armed with tear gas rifles, helmets, and billy clubs, head across the mud toward the smoking barracks, half of them trusties who looked like they wanted to run the other way.

Lew stood up and stretched against the one cuff holding him to the chair until he could see out the window. Men ran every which way. It was pandemonium out there.

That’s when he saw it. A reflection in the window. A shape he knew better than his own name. He turned around and saw that it was coming from the television, a news broadcast breaking into regular programming.

A spinning graphic grew larger and larger, until it looked like it wanted to burst out of the screen. Two symmetrical curlicues on either side of a flattened vertical oval, looking for all intents and purposes like an insect.

Like a butterfly.

Excerpted from The Monarch by Jack Soren. Copyright © 2014. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.